6 Techniques To Avoid Lifting Injuries

One of the most common causes of workers compensation claims is the improper lifting of a heavy object by an employee. It is also one of the easiest workers compensation claims to avoid. When an employee injures a back, it is usually not the heavy weight, but the method of lifting the weight that was improper. These back injuries can be avoided. The teaching of proper lifting techniques, to any employee who may be called upon to physically move objects, is an essential part of any good safety program.

 

There are at least 6 common things that employees do that cause them to hurt their back. They are (this is not an all inclusive list)

 

  1. Twisting while lifting
  2. Holding the object too far away from the body
  3. Lifting with the back bent
  4. Contorting the body to lift in an unnatural way
  5. Losing their balance while lifting
  6. Not coordinating their lift with other co-worker(s)

 

 

Twisting while Lifting

 

When a heavy object needs to be moved from a floor or other level to a higher level, the employee will often be paralleled to the higher level when the object is picked up and will have to twist to set the object on the higher level (shelf, cart, conveyor belt, etc.). The employee should approach the object perpendicular to the higher level where the object is going to be placed, with the employee, the object and the higher level in a straight line. This puts the object in the middle between the employee and the higher level, allowing the employee to lift the object without twisting. It also allows the employee to have the head facing straight forward to keep all parts of the spine in a straight line.

 

 

Holding the Object Too Far from the Body

 

Sometimes employees just do not want to get dirty. If the object is dirty, greasy, oily, etc., the employee may be inclined to try to lift the object while holding the object away from the body. This is difficult to do with light objects and a recipe for an injury with heavy objects. The further the object is from the body, the harder it is too lift and the more strain it places on the body. The employees need to be taught to hold the object they lift as close to the body as possible to avoid strain on the back.

 

 

Lifting with the Back Bent

 

When employees have not been taught the proper lifting techniques for heavy weights, they are often inclined to keep the legs straight and the back bent. This is backwards of the proper way to lift. The employee should be facing the object with the feet shoulder width apart. The employee should keep the back straight and bend the knees to lower the body closer to the object. This allows the employee to lift the object with the strength of the legs instead of placing tremendous strain on the back by trying lift with the back bent.

 

 

Contorting the Body to Lift in an Unnatural Way

 

Often the box of supplies, or bucket of parts or other heavy object is surrounded by other objects that are in the way of the employee trying to lift the object needed. When the employee contorts the body to lift a load in a cluttered area, the worker is inviting injury. While it takes a little longer, the employee should be taught to move other items out of the way (using proper lifting techniques) before trying to lift a heavy object. The employee should be sure the area around the object and the pathway from the object is clear prior to lifting it.

 

 

Losing Balance While Lifting

 

There are different ways the employee can lose his balance while lifting a load. Common mistakes include placing the feet too close together, picking up an irregularly shaped object where the load is uneven, trying to pick up a stack of two or more objects at the same time, or trying to pick up an object that is too heavy. The employees should be taught that the feet need to be at least shoulder width apart, or slightly wider. If the load is unevenly balanced, the employee should redistribute the weight of the load if more than one object, or to get someone to assist in lifting the object if the weight of the object is unevenly distributed.

 

 

Not Coordinating the Lift with Others

 

When two or more people are lifting a heavy object at one time, not only is there a strong probability of a back injury if done incorrectly, the employees may badly smash toes. When it takes more than one person to lift an object, and a forklift is not option, it is imperative that all the parties to the lift communicate where they are holding or grasping the object, where they are moving the object to, and when they will lift simultaneously.

 

 

Proper lifting can easily be taught to all employees involved in any type of manual labor. The basic points each employee needs to know include:

 

  1. Keep the back straight at all times
  2. Keep the load as close to the body as possible
  3. Keep the feet at least shoulder width apart with the toes turned slightly outward
  4. Bend the knees, not the back
  5. Keep the object to be lifted directly in front of you to avoid twisting
  6. Keep your head forward facing the object
  7. Breathe out as you lift

 

 

Author Michael Stack, Principal, COMPClub, Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their work comp costs by 20% to 50%.  He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is co-author of Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs, a comprehensive step-by-step manual of cost containment strategies based on hands-on field experience, and is founder of COMPClub, an exclusive member training program on workers compensation cost containment best practices. Through these platforms he is in the trenches on a working together with clients to implement and define best practices, which allows him to continuously be at the forefront of innovation and thought leadership in workers’ compensation cost containment. Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

 

 

©2016 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

 

5 Tips To Prevent Winter Work Comp Claims

Winter is in full force and effect.  With subzero temperatures hitting much of the country recently companies need to take additional steps to ensure safety.  If the workplace does a lot of inside and outside work, this can lead to increased risk for injury, and it can start as soon as the workers pull in the parking lot.  In most jurisdictions, workers comp coverage begins as soon as those tires cross into the parking lot.

 

With the slick conditions, numerous injuries can occur, ranging from minor slips and falls to major injuries such as broken bones.  But do not sit around and wait for the injuries to occur.  Below we discuss 5 ways to be prepared for the long winter haul.

 

 

  1. Get supplies stocked 

 

Before the winter storm dumps a foot of snow on your doorstep, try not to be caught off guard. If the company is responsible for snow removal and salting, stock up on bags of salt and sand and have them ready to use, near the areas to be applied.  Inspect the shovels and brooms for wear and tear and make sure they are in good working order.  If using a plow truck for the parking lot, be sure the plow is properly installed and lubricated, and perform yearly maintenance on the vehicle to avoid breakdowns or damage. These may seem like no-brainers, but sometimes when it gets busy and these tasks get brushed aside for more important duties.  It is better to be safe than sorry, so be ready should another storm come rolling in.  Snow can accumulate in a hurry. For employees who work outside, consider providing ice grips for shoes.

 

 

  1. Inspect the entryways, stairwells, and mats

 

People have to enter the building somewhere, so be sure the mats are functional.  Some employers have special winter mats, made with extra durable material to stand up to the wear and tear of the outside elements. Non-slip bottoms, and rougher fiber mats can brush that outside snow and salt off of boots and shoes so those materials are not dragged into the work areas.  Standing water from melted snow posts a dangerous hazard, and is one of the leading causes of slips and falls.

 

 

Most stairwells will be covered in an anti-slip coating, so check and make sure that the surfaces are doing the job they are supposed to do.  Also check handrails to make sure they are not loose, so if someone grabs them to prevent from falling the rails do not come off the wall.  This is common sense, but these checkups usually fall to the bottom of the priority list.

 

 

  1. Have an outside vendor perform the plowing and salting

 

If you do own the lot and maintain the salting and plowing, consider using an outside vendor to take care of this task.  These vendors will carry their own liability insurance policy, and if injury occurs it can shift the risk to them instead of to the employer.  But make sure that the vendor does not try to “sneak” in a hold harmless clause in the contract.  If this is the case, the employer agrees to waive any liability towards the vendor, shifting the risk back to the employer for priority coverage.

Most vendors keep the contracts open to negotiation, so have your counsel inspect the contract for loopholes or gaps in coverage should an injury occur.  Subrogation is a right in most jurisdictions, and an employer should be able to pursue if any injury does occur within certain circumstances.  Most vendors will do their best to get a hold-harmless in the contract.  This does not mean the vendors are trying to run away from responsibility, but instead do not want to be held responsible should injury or property damage occur.

 

 

  1. If leasing the space in a building, review the specifications of who is responsible for injury

 

If you as an employer are a tenant in a building, or leasing the space for the entire building and parking lot, ask the building manager for a copy of the lease contract. Do not assume right that because you are leasing a suite in an office building, and a worker falls on the way in, that you are 100% responsible for any injury damages.   An opportunity to file a subrogation claim could be missed with the building’s Carrier.  Less often than not building owners will avoid stepping up to say exactly how the lease breaks down and who exactly has coverage for an injury that occurs before the workers gets to the specific suite.  Do some research and find out exactly what scenarios are the employer’s responsibility, and what scenarios will fall under the building manager’s coverage.

 

 

  1. If inclement weather happens, consider cancelling work for the day

 

If this is within your organization’s means, should a major storm come in consider a snow day for workers.  The world is not going to end to halt operations for one day.  If the roads are treacherous, some workers may call in anyway depending on the commute.  Work is important and most workers will do their best to report for duties, but it certainly is not worth getting into a serious car accident over.  Create a telephone call list so workers can relay the message on to others that work is off for the day or notify employees via email and/or social media, and make sure to have an up-to-date recording on the company phone.  That way you are not trying to call everyone at 5am to advise that work is canceled for the day.  In the end, if doing this saves someone from a major car accident, it is worth it.  Create a phone line to call, leaving a message on a general machine so workers can call before leaving for work to see if work was indeed canceled or not. Make sure there are procedures in place for inclement weather cancelations and late start instructions.

 

 

Summary

 

The winter months statistically create more hazards than the summer months. Snow and ice can lead to dangerous conditions both on the commute to work, and within the workplace itself.  Be sure to be prepared for these conditions by performing the tasks listed above.  It is far more costly to incur a serious injury, than it is to prevent it.

 

 

Author Michael Stack, Principal, COMPClub, Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their work comp costs by 20% to 50%.  He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is co-author of Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs, a comprehensive step-by-step manual of cost containment strategies based on hands-on field experience, and is founder of COMPClub, an exclusive member training program on workers compensation cost containment best practices. Through these platforms he is in the trenches on a working together with clients to implement and define best practices, which allows him to continuously be at the forefront of innovation and thought leadership in workers’ compensation cost containment. Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

 

 

©2016 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

 

Start the New Year Off Right With An Ergonomics Review

The New Year provides employers and opportunity to re-examine the issue of ergonomics in the workplace.  Making sure that workplace ergonomics is in place for all employees not only improves workplace morale, but can reduce the costs of workers’ compensation claims in the future.

 

 

What is Ergonomics?

 

Defined by Webster, ergonomics is the “the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment.”  This includes a review of workstations and job functions to reduce muscle overuse, correct poor posture and eliminate injuries cause is repetitive work activities.  This can also include a review of policies and procedures that seek input from a varied of interested stakeholders—include the person perform a particular work function.  It is important to include a review of tools used on a daily basis and other intangibles including, but not limited to work space lighting.

 

 

Implementing an Effective Review

 

A proper ergonomics review includes the use of a number of different specialists and stakeholders.  Beyond using a qualified specialist, it is important to include input from company management and employees performing job functions.  This can also include a review of available resources and budget constraints.

 

It is also essential to understand the demographics of your labor force.  Studies show that Americans are working into their later years.  This is resulting in more severe injuries from repetitive type injuries that lead to longer periods of disability.  Factors to consider when addressing this issue include:

 

  • Age discrimination laws that prevent employers from engaging in unlawful labor practices;
  • State and federal OSHA laws and regulations; and
  • Addressing injury and post-injury response.

 

 

Return-To-Work and Ergonomics

 

A successful ergonomics review will keep in mind issues employer and employees face when returning to work following an injury.  Some important matters to consider include:

 

  • Modification of a pre-injury position to accommodate the restrictions of a recovering employee;
  • The ability of an employee under work restrictions to rotate positions on a frequent basis; and
  • Workstations that are easily modified to allow employees to move from one function to the next without disruptions in productivity.

 

These tasks are sometimes difficult to achieve.  Barriers to successfully implementation include the inability of the claims management team to coordinate with employer representatives.  There is a need for all stakeholders to cooperate on these matters.  It requires clear communication and objective information from the treating physicians.

 

 

It is Also about Injury Prevention

 

The prevention of injuries is a major feature of a successful ergonomics program that sometimes goes unnoticed.  Examples of this include adjustable work stations for employees that allow them to perform functions sitting and standing.  This not only leads to increased job satisfaction, but is proven to reduce injury.  Some common injuries prevented from this type of modification include cervical spine strain, low back discomfort and upper extremity injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome or ulnar nerve impingement.

 

 

Conclusions

 

An ergonomics review has a number of important benefits to all stakeholders concerned about workers’ compensation claim prevention or reduction.  This all starts with an effective implementation program.  Once this takes place, it is important to include all parties, including employees.

 

 

Author Michael Stack, Principal, COMPClub, Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their work comp costs by 20% to 50%.  He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is co-author of Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs, a comprehensive step-by-step manual of cost containment strategies based on hands-on field experience, and is founder of COMPClub, an exclusive member training program on workers compensation cost containment best practices. Through these platforms he is in the trenches on a working together with clients to implement and define best practices, which allows him to continuously be at the forefront of innovation and thought leadership in workers’ compensation cost containment. Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

 

 

©2015 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

 

Do You Hear What I Hear – Prevent Hearing Loss Claims

Hearing loss claims can be very expensive.  If the loss is great enough to prevent the employee from continuing in the job, or prevents taking other employment, there could be life time exposure for benefits.   Most exposure will be for the percentage of the loss caused by the job.

 

In industries such as mining, construction, noisy manufacturing conditions, and jet airports, hearing loss claims may even be assumed to have come from the job.

 

Other areas where hearing loss exposure exists and might be assumed to come from the employment are blaring music in stores, restaurants, bars, and amusement facilities.  Employees working in these areas are susceptible to hearing loss as the noise in some of these establishments has been measured as high as 120 to 140 decibels.

 

In addition, traumatic hearing loss from sudden unforeseen explosions or other loud sources will pose the possibility of full exposure.

 

 

Some Good News:

 

According to OSHA data, hearing loss claims appear to be declining.  This could be due to improved protective hearing devices, enforced use of protective devices, lowering of the environmental decibel noise by the employer, and elimination of certain industries from the calculations.

 

In addition, states have begun to amend workers compensation acts.  Some of the changes noted are:

 

  1. Noise levels need to be at 90 decibel levels or more.
  2. Employee exposure must be at least 90 days.
  3. The loss needs to affect both ears.
  4. Differences in the level of loss for each ear are being considered together.
  5. There must be conclusive medical (by a certified Otolaryngologist MD) substantiation that the hearing loss is due solely to the job nose.
  6. The hearing loss must be 10% or more in some jurisdictions.

 

Tables for calculating the actual loss are being adjusted to include age and normal deterioration, and benefits are being adjusted according to  the dominant factor.  Example:  if 80% of the loss is due to age and 20% occurred on the job only the 20% will adjudged compensable.

 

Time for filing claims must be accomplished within a statutory time after the employee discovers the loss or begins medical attention for the loss.  Further, statutes are now taking into account the length of time away from the exposure.  The longer the employee is away from the exposure the more must be substantiated as to causation, and some jurisdictions have enacted discovery reporting time frames.

 

 

Minimize the Exposure:

 

Despite the improvements noted above employers need to keep a strong handle on conditions that can lead to hearing loss claims.

 

  • Start with environment. Take decibel readings though out the entire operation.   Institute measures that might eliminate, reduce, or take employees away from the noise.   Sound insulations, sound absorbing curtains and tiles, sound proof booths, and improved hearing loss protectors, are just a few physical steps.

 

  • Strive to reach an environment where employees are subjected noise decibel readings of 90 or lower.

 

  • Failure of an employee to use protective equipment will not prevent the ability to file and prove a hearing loss claim. Therefore, strong enforcement of rules for safety and using protective equipment is necessary.

 

  • When a hearing loss claim is presented be sure the claim technician explores the employee’s off job decibel exposure that might add to hearing loss. A person frequently using earphones for musical devices, listening to loud sound in confined areas, or attending loud sporting or entertainment events might all have an impact.  However, can be difficult to establish.

 

  • Constantly monitor decibel readings and take steps to correct anything over a 90 reading.

 

  • Have a true otolaryngologist take pre-employment audio examination. Schedule regular retests as long as the employee is in the noise environment.  When the employment terminates schedule a final test.
  • When loss is detected, have the otolaryngologist determine the percentage of loss related to the job.

 

 

Summary:

 

Hearing losses can be expensive and present challenges for the employer.   While there are some legislative changes that help, employers need to be diligent about conditions that can lead to hearing loss.  Pre and Post audio testing of employees that are exposed to noise is a must.

 

 

Author Michael Stack, Principal, COMPClub, Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their work comp costs by 20% to 50%.  He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is co-author of Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs, a comprehensive step-by-step manual of cost containment strategies based on hands-on field experience, and founder of COMPClub, an exclusive member training program on workers compensation cost containment best practices. Through these platforms he is in the trenches on a monthly basis working together with clients to implement and define best practices, which allows him to continuously be at the forefront of innovation and thought leadership in workers’ compensation cost containment. Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

 

 

©2015 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

 

Risk Management at Industrial Work Zones

It’s no secret; work zones can be a dangerous place both for employees and for passers-by. Due to the materials, heavy equipment, and the busy activities at industrial zones, they can be a risky place making safety an important concern. Keeping everyone safe on site should be top priority to all supervisors, workers, and those nearby. A focus on safe zones and safe work means construction can proceed effectively, on schedule, with good quality, and with everyone being safe. Luckily, there are good tips to help those who work in and manage industrial zones to keep them safe.

 

 

Protective Gear is a Must

 

Everyone entering a work zone should be wearing protective gear. Whether the person is simply looking around, delivering supplies, or talking with someone on the crew, protective gear is still important. Even one unprotected person is at risk in industrial zones. Likewise, everyone needs to be wearing the correct gear. Leaving off a safety hat or vest because of hot weather, for instance, is an unwise risk because a break without proper safety equipment leaves one exposed. Also, it is important to make sure each person has the proper equipment for the specific job available to them and that it is in good condition.

 

 

Clear Directions and Communication

 

Industrial zones can be chaotic, loud, and confusing. Due to the number of people and the equipment being used, communicating clearly is very important. Posting clear signs with words or obvious imagery to remind everyone on site of important rules or reminders is a great idea. Bright colored signs with clear images or large, simple wording will be certain everyone remembers the proper precautions. Likewise, it can draw attention to remind passers-by to be careful in heavily populated places.

 

 

Choose the Right Times

 

Choosing the right times to perform construction work is important, especially for jobs on busy streets or in populous areas. Avoiding night time work is advisable. Even with reflective clothing, night work can be a hazard both to people nearby and to workers. Likewise, workers are more likely to be tired and less focused from long hours continuing into the evening. Therefore, working during daylight hours only is one of the safest ways to handle a construction zone.

 

 

Keep an Eye Out

 

In addition to proper positioning and clothing that is meant to make others nearby aware of the workers, be sure to have a safety supervisor on each project. Having a specific person appointed to looking out for general safety concerns as well as all workers as his or her primary task means safety concerns that might not be seen otherwise are more likely to be noticed and addressed. The manager should have a good amount of experience in construction and be familiar with safety codes, company procedures, and what sorts of things to look out for that may be a danger.

 

 

Reroute

 

If at all possible, detour as much traffic as possible – both human and automobile – to keep people from getting unnecessarily close to the zone. If a detour isn’t possible, be sure to set up clear ropes and barricades to mark where people should not go past and put someone in charge of looking out for people not paying attention during busy times. Barricades and proper signage and someone flagging or watching traffic can greatly reduce accidents from those passing by who aren’t paying attention.

 

 

Proper Insurance

 

Perhaps it’s stating the obvious, but insuring both workers and the work zone is an extremely important part of industrial work zone safety. Insurance policies keep workers protected in case of injury and supervisors and owners safe in case of any accident or problem. Looking into a good coverage policy or set of policies is one of the first things that should be undertaken before opening a new construction zone. Likewise, policies should be inspected regularly to make sure they still meet the needs of the zone and that they don’t need an update or renewal.

 

By following these and other common sense safety tips, industrial construction zones can be a much safer place for everyone. Likewise, following safety tips will ensure work proceeds the way it should and is a success for everyone.

 

 

Kenneth Overton is a risk management consultant and a former construction supervisor with over 10 years of experience in the industry. He specializes in risk analysis and disaster management. Contact: kenneth.p.overton@gmail.com

How Sharp Is Your Work Comp Fraud Detector?

While we can tell our readers the importance of fighting fraudulent claims, and publish lists of red flag indicators of fraud, it is often difficult for the risk manager or workers’ compensation coordinator to separate the legitimate work comp claims from the bogus claims.

 

To assist you in recognizing the bogus claims, we are providing a sample claim, using the actual facts of a submitted workers’ compensation claim to see if you can recognize or spot ten red flags of a bogus claim (the name of the employee has been altered to protect the guilty).

 

 

The Claim:

 

John Doe works in an auto repair shop as a mechanic.  Upon arriving early for work on Monday morning, Mr. Doe went into the auto parts store room to get a part for the car he was going to work on.  While leaving the storeroom and using both hands to carry the heavy auto part in a box, he tripped over another box on the floor.  In an effort to keep from falling, he grabbed a storage shelf, twisting and injuring his shoulder as he fell to the floor.  No one saw him fall in the parts storage room as the other employees were just arriving for work.

 

Mr. Doe immediately reported the claim to the shop manager and explained to the manager how he fell over the box on the floor he did not see because of the box he was carrying with both hands.  The shop manager offered to take Mr. Doe to the nearest industrial medicine clinic, but Mr. Doe instead chose to take himself to his “family doctor”.  The family doctor took Mr. Doe off work and did not indicate when he would be able to return to work.

 

When the shop manager called Mr. Doe the next morning to see how he was doing, Mr. Doe’s wife stated he was sleeping and could be disturbed.  The shop manager waited and called Mr. Doe again that afternoon.  Per the wife, Mr. Doe had stepped out.  The shop manager asked for Mr. Doe’s cell phone number, but instead of providing the phone number, the wife promised to have Mr. Doe call the manager.  Mr. Doe almost immediately called the manager back to relay what the family doctor had said. The shop manager recorded the cell phone number of Mr. Doe.  When the shop manager called Mr. Doe’s cell phone the following week to see what the family doctor had to say after the second medical appointment, the background noises did not sound like the noise you would hear in a person’s home.

 

A second mechanic in the shop after being overworked for three weeks due to the absence of Mr. Doe advised the shop manager that he had heard through a mutual friend that Mr. Doe had injured his shoulder while rock climbing the weekend before the reported injury.

 

 

The claim has numerous red flags that could be a tip-off for fraud.  They are:

 

  1. Monday morning accident. Almost twice as many accidents occur on Monday morning than any other morning of the week.  This is due to people claiming non-work related weekend injuries as work related in order to not lose their source of income.
  2. Arriving early for work. Unless the employee habitually arrives early for work, arrival for work early on the day of the alleged accident is an indicator the employee wanted to “have the accident” before other employees see he is injured.
  3. Not seeing a hazard he had just saw moments earlier. If boxes on the floor were a common occurrence, the employee would be careful about watching where he was going. If a box on the floor was unusual, the employee would have made a mental note to avoid it.
  4. The mechanism of injury does not make sense. If the employee was using both hands to carry a heavy box, how did he have a hand free to grab the storage shelf?
  5. The accident was not witnessed. Bogus injury claims almost always occur where no one else will see the accident happen.
  6. The selection of a particular doctor over a more qualified doctor who specializes in treating injured employees. This is normally a sign the employee wants a doctor who will accommodate his desire to be off work.
  7. A doctor who does not address return to work. This is normally because the injured employee tells the doctor that he does not feel he will be able to meet his job requirements.
  8. The employee being asleep when he would normally be awake. Unless the doctor has prescribed some very strong pain killers, the employee should be available to talk to the employer.
  9. The employee not being at home. Occasionally not home is understandable, repeatedly not home/not available is usually a sign the employee has something better to do than being at home, i.e., possibly another job, either short-term or long-term.  Background noises that don’t sound like a spouse or a television often are an indicator the employee is working elsewhere.
  10. Tips from co-workers. This is probably the strongest evidence of fraud and should be investigated thoroughly.

 

None of these red flags by themselves are proof of fraud, nor is a combination of two red flags.  However, the more red flags the employer sees on a claim, the higher the probability the claim is fraudulent.  If you see multiple reasons to question the validity of a claim, the insurance adjuster and the special investigative unit of the insurer should be notified as to why you believe the claim to be questionable.

 

 

Author Michael B. Stack, Principal, COMPClub, Amaxx Work Comp Solutions. He is an expert in employer communication systems and helps employers reduce their workers comp costs by 20% to 50%. He resides in the Boston area and works as a Qualified Loss Management Program provider working with high experience modification factor companies in the Massachusetts State Risk Pool.  He is co-author of the #1 selling book on cost containment, Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com, and Founder of the interactive Workers’ Comp Training platform COMPClub. Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

 

©2015 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

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Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

 

How To Set Up And Enforce Your Safety Program

A strong well enforced Safety Program is a key ingredient for all prevention programs.   Good safety programs with proper enforcement allow employees to have a high job comfort level.

 

Employees will come to understand that the employer has their best health interests at heart.  This can develop stronger employee loyalty, reduced injuries, increase production, result in less employee turnover, and training.  Many more positives can develop which will lead to a better bottom line.

 

 

Injuries Cost:

 

A weak or non-enforced safety program will allow for job injuries that can cause these and more risks:

  • Loss of life.
  • Permanent Disabilities.
  • Lost Production.
  • Employee re-training or replacement.
  • Lost income.
  • Health Exposures that may not be covered by insurance.
  • Possible damages to machines or equipment.
  • Increased insurance premiums.

 

In addition to these few noted visible items, hidden costs such as employee unrest that results in poor production will occur. A good program can limit or avoid such exposures.

 

 

Starting a Safety Program:

 

Safety is complex, detailed and demanding.  It can be accomplished using scientific process and measurement.  An entire profession of Safety Engineering has developed with college degrees available.  Due to the specialty of this industry, it is wise to use the services of a Professional Safety Engineer.

 

All safety programs need to meet OSHA requirements.  There may be flaws in OSHA rules and regulations that may not meet or be conducive to the employer’s industry, and OSHA has few regulations that can be imposed for employee violations. An expert safety engineer will know what needs to be done for employer compliance and employee rights.

 

A safety engineer should carefully study each job function.  The following are a few items to consider:

 

  1. Machines: for safety guards, emergency shut off switches, age, and current state of the art changes or modifications.   Use manufacturer representatives to assist and recommend modifications.
  2. Ergonomics for work stations. They should be designed for comfort and efficiency.
  3. Time elements for exercise and rest breaks from sedentary operations.
  4. Full safety inspections for all vehicles to ascertain proper road worthiness.
  5. Comfortable assembly line speeds.
  6. Toxic Exposures.
  7. Environmental items like lighting, ventilation, heating and air-conditioning.

 

Consultations with legal, union, management and other forces should be obtained during and after the study.  Such input will help with the implementation and enforcement of the program.  When these units know they had a part in the program development they will be more cooperative and receptive to compliance.

 

The Safety Engineer, using all data from the study and the consultations, will then write a comprehensive program.  The resulting written program should be reasonable, concise, and.  understood for all employees.   There should be incentives and rewards for compliance.  Conversely,

penalties and disciplinary steps should be included.

 

 

Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation:

 

Simply passing out copies of the program to employees may not reach a desired result.  Human nature shows that most employees will only glance at it.  It will then be put someplace and forgotten.

 

Gather employees into groups of 10 to 15 persons and pass out the program to all.  The Safety Engineer or person charged with enforcing the program should then proceed to go over all aspects using the written program as a text.

 

Answer all questions and concerns expressed by the employees.  If the comment or concern is valid, make adjustments accordingly.

 

Have all employees sign an agreement that they attended the training, understood it and will comply.

This document can later be used for any discipline measures.

 

Once the program takes effect the Safety Person should make as many rounds and inspections as are reasonable or necessary to assure all employees are in compliance.  Those employees not in compliance must be dealt with promptly and appropriately.  Post nameless violations on the employee bulletin board.  “Example Safety Violations 6/2/15. Three employees cited for not wearing safety glasses.  Each disciplined according to rule 3 in safety equipment violation.”

 

Minor infractions should have warnings.  Establish stricter penalties for multiple warnings.

 

Any safety violation that results in injury to self, another employee, a customer, damages property, or reduces production should have penalties from time off without pay to termination.

 

Once a month the Safety Person should meet with management.  Review compliance, violations, penalties, disciplines, rewards, injuries, and any other aspects in focus.  If the program does not develop a trend for reduced losses and cost seek out the areas of failure for corrective measures.

 

 

Author Michael B. Stack, Principal, COMPClub, Amaxx Work Comp Solutions. He is an expert in employer communication systems and helps employers reduce their workers comp costs by 20% to 50%. He resides in the Boston area and works as a Qualified Loss Management Program provider working with high experience modification factor companies in the Massachusetts State Risk Pool.  He is co-author of the #1 selling book on cost containment, Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com, and Founder of the interactive Workers’ Comp Training platform COMPClub. Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

 

©2015 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

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Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

 

 

OSHA Top 10 List Can Help Employers Avoid Costly Penalties

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Okay, as far as entertainment value goes, it may not rival late night television hosts and their opening monologues, but OSHA did publish its list of the “Top 10” most frequently cited construction standards, following inspections of work sites in 2013.

 

 

No, OSHA was not intent on pitting itself against the likes of David Letterman or Conan O’Brien in a comedic battle of wits. Rather, it was attempting a pre-emptive strike, aimed at saving businesses from needlessly paying out high penalty fees (up to $7,000 for a serious violation, and as much as $70,000 for repeated or willful violations).

 

 

 

Top 10 Lists Alerts Employers About Commonly Cited Standards

 

OSHA annually publishes this “Top 10” list to alert employers about commonly cited standards, so employers can take steps to find and mend recognized hazards before OSHA ever takes punitive action against a company. Normally, OSHA does not grant advanced notice of its inspections, and inspections are generally performed at sites where imminently dangerous situations are known, fatalities or catastrophes have occurred, complaints or referrals have been given, the work site has been issued a citation in the past, or inspections may be pre-planned or programmed.

 

 

While it poses no threat to replace the heroes of late night television, OSHA is meeting its goal of reducing fatalities, injuries, and illnesses in the workplace.

 

 

Too many preventable injuries occur on the job, leading companies to spend unnecessary dollars on fines and healthcare costs.

 

 

Medcor offers a variety of safety compliance training courses designed to meet the requirements and needs of companies, including OSHA compliance, emergency medical, emergency response, industrial fire suppression, and technical rescue. For more information, contact the author at Raymond.loch@medcor.com

 

 

Yes, OSHA citations can be costly, but for the most part, they are avoidable.

 

 

 

And now… here are the “Top 10” Most Frequently Cited OSHA Construction Standards for 2013:

 

#10: 1926.451(b)(1) – Scaffolds not fully planked at each work level.

 

 

#9:1926.451 (e)(1) – Scaffold access/egress. Many citations involve climbing on the cross bracing.

 

 

#8: 1926.453(b)(2)(v) – Fall protection in aerial lifts. Users must receive training in the manufacturer’s instruction.

 

 

#7: 1926.501(b)(10) – No fall protection for flat roofing. Consider using parapet guardrails and portable-type fall arrest anchorage.

 

 

#6: 1926.451(9)(1) – Fall protection on scaf­folding. Fall protection starts at 10 feet.

 

 

#5: 1926.102(b)(1) – No safety glasses. Hun­dreds of eye injuries occur each year from working without safety glasses.

 

 

#4: 1926.100 – Hard Hats. Fatalities occur when workers are hit by falling objects.

 

 

#3: 1926.501(b)(1) – Open sided floors that were more than six feet in depth were not protected with standard guardrails or equivalent. Guardrails must be able to withstand 200 pounds of force.

 

 

#2: 1926.1053(b)(1) – Training in the safe use of ladders. Ladder falls killed over 100 workers in the last 10 years. Ladders need to extend three feet above the landing.

 

 

And now… (drum roll!)

 

 

the #1 citation for 2013 is… 1926.501(b)(13) – Fall protection in resi­dential construction. Having no fall arrest has been the ongoing #1 OSHA citation since 2007.

 

 

Author Raymond Loch, Safety Training Services Leader, Medcor, is a certified safety professional with over 32 years of experience as an instructor, operator, and consultant in safety, emergency preparedness, and emergency response for general industry, construction and fire service.   He has developed and implemented training programs for OSHA compliance, technical rescue, and industrial fire suppression. Ray has worked with Fortune 100 firms and with small companies and government entities.  . http://medcor.com.  Contact: raymond.loch@medcor.com

 

Injury Prevention: Look In Mirror, “You’re Looking At The Problem”

All injuries are preventable. If you really think about it, if everyone did everything they were supposed to do accidents probably would never happen.

 

Sure equipment fails, or gets worn out and fails, or tires blow out when you run over a nail, but think about it: That nail maybe wouldn’t be on the road if a worker hadn’t left a box of nails on the bed of their truck then drove away with the tailgate down. That machine would not have failed if it were replaced 2 years ago when the maintenance worker told his supervisor that this machine was old, outdated, and had “a few years left.”

 
Tracy Morgan Accident, Like Most Accidents, Was Preventable

 

Think about what happened to comedian Tracy Morgan. This is all alleged at the time I write this, but allegedly the semi-truck driver was up for 24 hours before he crashed into the back of Morgan’s limo. The truck driver is a Wal-Mart employee. No doubt he will have a great defense counsel when this goes to trial, but what if that were your truck driver out there that caused this accident? Do you know how many hours your drivers are logging behind the wheel? Are they compliant with all their reporting of work versus rest periods? How can you really prove they are being truthful and honest should this situation result from your employee? If you are not sure, I hope you have deep pockets to provide as good of a defense counsel as this driver is going to get.

 

Time and time again, we see injuries that are preventable. Most of these injuries get chalked up to “operator error” meaning that this worker knew better than to do what they were doing at the time they were injured. This could be from trying to lift too much, or pull too much in one load, or from operating a machine in the improper manner.

 

 

The Belt Sander That Luckily Missed

 

For example, I saw an injury the other day in which one machine operator lucked out. He was using a big stationary belt sander, to clean and smooth the edges on some metal pieces he was working on. This is a vertical sander, meaning the belt runs up and down, and the operator holds the piece of metal and pushes it into the belt to obtain the desired result.

 

Instead of holding the piece vertically like you are supposed to, he was holding it horizontally. When you hold it horizontally, to work on one edge you have to tilt the piece up. What he forgot to realize was by tilting the piece up, his hands were extremely close to the moving belt. The piece caught in the tiny gap between the platform and the belt, and the force of the spinning belt pulled his hands right in to it.

 

He was very lucky in a sense that he escaped with only some bad abrasions and a few fractured fingers. It surely could have been much worse had his fingers been pulled down and jammed into the platform or had he not had gloves on at the time.

 

But questions begged to be asked. Why was he doing this and holding the part horizontally? Who trained him on how to use this sander? Where was his supervisor, and why was he not seen operating this equipment in an unsafe manner?

 

This is a 100% preventable injury. I’m sure the person reading this right now can think of many claims that resulted from something that should have been preventable in the first place. Think of the costs associated with claims that should have never happened in the first place.

 

 

“Operator Error” Should Not Fully Be Blamed On Operator
Every risk manager’s excuse is that it was “operator error” or just overall “bad judgment” on the part of the injured worker. But I look at the greater cause of the injury which is the worker themselves. They know better than to use equipment improperly, so why do they do it in the first place?

 

The answer is that nobody has ever caught them cutting corners. Plus even if they were caught, no discipline was ever handed down to them. So if they are not disciplined, what incentive do they have to change their dangerous ways?

 

They are only going to keep getting lucky for so long. Chances are this belt sander guy learned his lesson, and when he is back to work he will use the sander correctly for a while, until he goes back to his old ways.

 

Every single business out there that has employees on the road for any type of business should take this Tracy Morgan accident as a brutal wake-up call. No worker wakes up one day and thinks they are going to get behind the wheel of their truck or car and kill somebody.

 

 

Hold Workers Accountable To Safety And Discipline Unsafe Acts

 

At the end of the day, your workers have to be held accountable for their own actions, and they need to be disciplined for unsafe acts. The chain of command and accountability has to be there. Workers are held accountable for their actions, supervisors are held accountable for their workers under their supervision, and so on up the ladder.

 

The failure is when one level of management does not act properly in stopping an unsafe act to begin with. If you as business owners and decision-makers do not step in, you cannot afford to turn a blind eye to whatever problem you are facing.

 

The cost of replacing an unsafe machine or the cost of making sure your workers are complaint with whatever safety protocol you have is not worth the cost of someone being seriously injured, or worse, losing their life.

 

 

 

Author Michael B. Stack, CPA, Principal, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher.  www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com.  Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

 

©2014 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

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Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

 

 

Fire Safety Lessons From One of The Deadliest Accidents In US History

We have just passed the sad 103rd anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire that occurred on March 25, 1911. This was one of the deadliest industrial disasters that resulted in the fourth highest loss of life from an industrial accident in U.S. history. The fire resulted in the deaths of 146 garment workers. They died from the fire, smoke inhalation, or falling or jumping to their deaths. The victims included 123 women and 23 men ages 14 to 43 years old.

 

The factory was on the eighth to tenth floors of a New York City building. The owners had locked the doors to the stairwells and exits to prevent theft. Many workers who could not escape the burning building jumped to their deaths from the buildings windows to escape the fire and smoke. Following the fire, public outrage led to legislation requiring improved worker safety standards. These new state laws required better building access and egress, fireproofing, fire extinguishers, alarm systems and automatic sprinklers.

 

What relevance does this tragedy have for employers today? Many aspects of this historical fire still can underscore important lessons to avoid workplace fires and injuries. For example:

 

Strictly enforce smoking bans. Although smoking was banned on the Triangle Factory floor, workers were known to sneak cigarettes. The New York Fire Marshall concluded that the most likely cause of the fire was a discarded match or cigarette in a scrap bin.

 

Promptly dispose of scrap material. The scrap bins contained hundreds of pounds, two months’ worth, of highly flammable fabric cuttings.

 

Keep flammable materials away from each other. In addition, hanging fabrics were close to the scrap bins, which helped the fire spread quickly.

 

Have working, audible fire alarms and emergency communication systems. A bookkeeper on the eighth floor was able to telephone the tenth floor to warn them of the fire. However, there was not a working telephone on the ninth floor to allow those workers to be informed. The ninth floor was not notified of the fire before the fire reached that floor.

 

Keep exits accessible. Many more victims could have escaped if the exits and freight elevator were unlocked. A foreman who had a stairway door key escaped by another route. Elevator operators saved many lives by traveling three times up to the ninth floor for passengers, but were forced to give up when the elevator rails buckled under the heat.

 

Keep fire escapes in good repair. Twenty of the victims fell to their deaths when the flimsy fire escape they were on collapsed.

 

 

Author Michael B. Stack, CPA, Principal, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher.  www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com.  Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

 

©2014 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

WORK COMP CALCULATOR:   http://www.LowerWC.com/calculator.php

MODIFIED DUTY CALCULATOR:   http://www.LowerWC.com/transitional-duty-cost-calculator.php

WC GROUP:  http://www.linkedin.com/groups?homeNewMember=&gid=1922050/

SUBSCRIBE: Workers Comp Resource Center Newsletter

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

 

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